Tag archives: Biblical Sexuality

Thinking Biblically About Love

by Joseph Backholm

March 17, 2021

On “Worldview Wednesday,” we feature an article that addresses a pressing cultural, political, or theological issue. The goal of this blog series is to help Christians think about these issues from a biblical worldview. Read our previous posts Thinking Biblically About Unity, Thinking Biblically About Safety, and Thinking Biblically About “Christian Nationalism”.

This week, the Vatican made headlines when it released a statement that said the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex relationships because God “does not and cannot bless sin: he blesses sinful man, so that he may recognize that he is part of his plan of love and allow himself to be changed by him. He in fact ‘takes us as we are, but never leaves us as we are.’”   

The Vatican’s announcement shouldn’t have come as such a shock. This has been the orthodox Christian belief since the time Jesus walked the earth. Nevertheless, the reactions were predictable.

Don Lemon, a CNN television personality who identifies as gay, had this response: “I would say to the pope and the Vatican and all Christians or Catholics … go out and meet people and try to understand people and do what the Bible and what Jesus actually said, if you believe in Jesus, and that is to love your fellow man and judge not lest ye be not [sic] judged” (paraphrasing Mt. 7:1).

Lemon’s call for love is not surprising, and Christians agree in principle that part of following Jesus is loving people. Jesus told His disciples the night before His crucifixion, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35 ESV). Years later, the apostle John wrote to his fellow believers, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).

But what is biblical love?   

Many, like Don Lemon, equate love with tolerance. From this perspective, it is unloving to say that same-sex relationships are sinful because that isn’t tolerant. However, God does not conflate love and tolerance.  

In God’s world, loving people is a priority, but it is not the highest priority. Loving God is the highest priority: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:37-39).

We love God first and foremost through our obedience to Him and His word. As Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). And again, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me” (John 14:21).

Part of our obedience to God is loving those He created, and He tells us how to do that. The apostle Paul penned one of the Bible’s most famous expositions on what love of neighbor looks like: “Love is patient, love is kind, it is not jealous; love does not brag, it is not arrogant. It does not act disgracefully, it does not seek its own benefit; it is not provoked, does not keep an account of a wrong suffered … it keeps every confidence, it believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13: 4-5,7 NASB).

There is much in this list for the “love is tolerance” crowd to like. But in the midst of this list is a verse that is absolutely critical to understanding the difference between biblical love and the world’s conception of love. That verse is, love “does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.”  (1 Cor. 13:6).

This is the point where, as Robert Frost would say, “two roads diverged in the wood…” The world’s understanding of love requires a celebration of unrighteousness, whereas God’s definition of love forbids it. Christians must choose.

This choice may be challenging for those who have spent their Christian lives conflating love with likability and tolerance. Jesus tells us to “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 5:16 ESV). Does this mean that if people don’t like what we do in the name of God, we’re doing it wrong? Not necessarily. Loving people well does not always translate into people liking you. Just ask Jesus. They killed Him. He warned His disciples before His death that the world would hate them, too, on account of Him (John 15:18-25). We do not need to fear our fellow man, however, because God is our helper (Ps. 118:5-9, Rom. 8:31-39).

The fact is, a lot of people don’t want to be loved by God; they want to be indulged by God—and everyone else. However, if we love God, there are things we can’t indulge. As Christians, it is not our job to be liked by people; it is our job to love people like Jesus did—with a love that is patient and kind, a love that does not rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoices with the truth.

The reason why Christians can’t celebrate unrighteousness is important—the entire gospel hinges upon it. It is our unrighteousness that separates us from God and sentences us to eternity in hell. Fortunately, there is a solution (John 3:16, Rom. 6:23), but celebrating the problem is unhelpful because it obscures the solution. 

Loving as God loves and refusing to celebrate unrighteousness may bother Don Lemon and others, but it won’t bother Jesus, and pleasing Him is much more important. To borrow another line from Robert Frost, “I took the road less traveled and that has made all the difference.” Or, as Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Mt. 7:13-14).

City of Atlanta: No orthodox Christians need apply

by Travis Weber, J.D., LL.M.

January 8, 2015

At a press conference held on Tuesday this week, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed fired Atlanta Fire Rescue Department Chief Kelvin Cochran. How did we get here?

One year ago, Chief Cochran wrote a book discussing orthodox Christianity, including a mention of how God views homosexual practice. The book had been around for a year, with no problems. Yet when one of Atlanta’s secret thought police secretly uncovered the not-so-secret book, a hullabaloo erupted. All the usual suspects contributed to a hearty round of hand-wringing and head-shaking.

Mayor Reed was “deeply disturbed” and indignantly proclaimed he would not tolerate such discrimination within his administration.

Unless that discrimination is against Christians, of course.

Perhaps the mayor should take up his feeling of being “deeply disturbed” with God. Chief Cochran was only quoting the Bible. He didn’t come up with the ideas he expressed.

The mayor’s office then opened an investigation because “there are a number of passages” in Chief Cochran’s book “that directly conflict with the city’s nondiscrimination policies.”

Well, who knew? The views one expresses in one’s own writings have to now conform to official city policies.

If this wasn’t bad enough, let’s turn to the chief’s firing. In a press conference held yesterday, the mayor claimed:

Chief Cochran’s “actions and decision-making undermine his ability to effectively manage a large, diverse workforce. Every single employee under the Fire Chief’s command deserves the certainty that he or she is a valued member of the team and that fairness and respect guide employment decisions. His actions and his statements during the investigation and his suspension have eroded my confidence in his ability to convey that message.”

I want to make my position and the city of Atlanta’s position crystal clear,” Reed continued. “The city’s nondiscrimination policy … really unequivocally states that we will not discriminate.” Thus, according the mayor, any individual who violates that policy or “creates an environment where that is a concern” will notcontinue his or her employment withthe city government.

The only problem is: there is no evidence here of any discrimination whatsoever! There never has been.

In essence, the chief was fired by the mayor and his allies because (if they were honest) they “think he might discriminate against gay people.” Never mind there is zero evidence of any such discrimination. Simply put, no one can point to any adverse action Chief Cochran has ever taken against someone based on their homosexuality! If they could, we certainly would have heard about it, given the frenzied fears of “potential” future discrimination and a “possible” hostile work environment. But because that’s all the mayor and his allies have to go on, all we’ve heard about is the “possibility” of future discrimination.

This is a clear case of someone being eliminated from their position because of their views alone. This is even worse than other recent cases of disapproval of orthodox Christian views among public figures in the United States. Without exaggeration, we can say we have just seen the government monitoring personal expression for approval or disapproval, backed up by power of law.

But if he’s going to bury Chief Cochran, Mayor Reed needs all the ammunition he can get. So he scrambles, and tacks on another “justification”: “Chief Cochran also failed to notify me, as Mayor and Chief Executive of the City of Atlanta and his employer, of his plans to publish the book and its inflammatory content. This demonstrates an irreconcilable lapse in judgment.”

Never mind that Chief Cochran plausibly describes how he not only notified the mayor of his plans to publish the book, but provided him in January 2014 with a pre-publication copy for his review, which the mayor told him he planned on reading during an upcoming trip.

Reed didn’t even stop there. He claimed Chief Cochran published his book in violation of standards of conduct which require approval from the Ethics Officer and the Board of Ethics.

Never mind that, as Cochran reports, not only did the director of Atlanta’s ethics office give him permission to write the book, but he was also given permission to mention in his biography that he was the city’s fire chief.

Well, which is it, Mayor Reed? The “nondiscrimination” issue. Or the ethics issue? On the latter, the chief and mayor offer contradicting testimony. On the former, the mayor doesn’t even offer any evidence whatsoever!

These developments are likely to cause widespread consternation among Christians, but they should alarm anyone concerned about freedom of expression in general.

At the press conference, the mayor was in vehement and repeated denial that Chief Cochran was fired for his religious beliefs. The mayor would have us believe that “[t]his is about judg[]ment” and “not about religious freedom” or “free speech.” According to the mayor, “[j]udg[]ment is the basis of the problem.” But Mayor Reed knows he is wrong, which is why he is so defensive about there being no “religious persecution”—he clearly knows it is taking place.

In addition, the mayor was accompanied by his cabinet and Alex Wan (the city’s lone gay council member) at the press conference. If the issue is about ethics, why have the lone gay council member flanking you as you make the announcement? For that matter, why not have an ethics officer?

Indeed, the issue is about orthodox Christian views. And if it’s about “judgment” on the expression of such views, we are in a brave new world.

Chief Cochran must vigorously stand for his rights. All who care about the right to free expression without government intrusion and interference should stand with him, even if they disagree with him in this case. For when the law fails to protect one, it soon fails to protect all.

As we are reminded by Martin Niemöller, a German pastor who was an outspoken opponent of Hitler and ultimately was confined to a concentration camp:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

NOTE: Stand with Chief Cochran by signing our petition supporting him at http://frc.org/fired

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